Introduction: The Tentacle

Hello all.

I like to collect odd things. I've always wanted to have my own sideshow (just like they used to have in the circus, in the "good old days" your grandparents talk about).

Since those aren't really around any more, and the things I want to collect don't really exist, I have to make them.

This is a project I am sculpting. I will mould and cast it in a Polyurethane medium. It will be finished, painted and then... displayed in my funky menagerie.


1) Monster Clay

2) Sculpting tools

3) Sculpting loops

5) Scrapers

6) Heat gun

7) Isopropyl alcohol

8) Fine steel wool

9) Compressed air

10) Lazy susan

11) A clean working surface covering (I use a big plastic bag cut down one side to open it up)

Step 1: Setting Up Your Station

I start by laying out my meis en place: work surface (plastic bag) and laying out my tools.

I also set up my reference images. In this case, my computer. But laying out copious amounts of photo reference works well too. Be strategic when you lay your materials out. Make sure everything is easy to get to without much shuffling.

Step 2: Set Up You Clay

When I am using a one time use clay (a hardening clay such as an oven bake polymer or an air dry clay), or if the pose is large or unbalanced... then I use a wire armature for structure. For the single-use clay, I also use tin foil to bulk out the body before I cover it with the clay. This saves on materials (the polymers can be expensive).

But since I am using a reusable oil / wax-based clay (monster clay), I discarded that step as it is just extra time and work. So this is a solid clay core. Chavant Clay is another oil / wax-based clay that is super popular. It is also a very nice clay to work with, and I used to sculpt with that but now I prefer monster clay. But that's just my preference. They are both excellent materials to work with.

So basically I start out with a big lump of clay. I scrap, carve, break-off chunks of clay. Then I kneed the clay for a bit (say, 10 minutes or so). This softens the clay and makes it more workable

Step 3: Rough Shapping

You lump your clay together and "smoosh it around", to create the rough shape of your object.

Make sure you really smash your pieces together well. You would hate to have a nice sculpt going and then have it split.

This is where I start to add specific "detail" shapes (such as the suckers in this case).

Step 4: Creating Details.

As you are sculpting, there is a lot of "back and forth"... at least for me there is. I create the shape I want and start adding details. Inevitably I will end up scraping, smoothing out, moving parts around, removing details, and rebuild. I will go back and forth like this a bit. Basically it's one step back, two steps forward.

cleaning up rough bits and adding final texture and details.

Step 5: Smoothing Finishing.

Final clean up and smoothing out final surfaces... keeping in mind not everything needs to be "glass" smooth. Also if you are too aggressive with your clean up, you will end up removing some of your surface details. So be careful of that.

There are a few techniques to smooth out your surface. Generally, I start out by just using my hands. The pad of my thumb and the mound at the base of the thumb get used a lot. As the clay heats up and softens with use, this technique will work pretty well. This is what I will use for a majority of the smoothing process. I will mention, that after a bit of continuous smoothing using the hands and fingers... you can get cramps and or blisters; small price.

After this, I will move on to the isopropyl. Use isopropyl alcohol in a spray bottle, fine steel wool and a chip brush (or a brush with short, stiff bristles).

Give the area that needs to be smoothed a good coat of isopropyl. Now take a small wad of steel wool and begin to lightly "polish" the spot. After a short bit of time, a paste will start to form. This is just the alcohol and the clay particles. You can just wipe this away. You can also use fine sandpaper instead of steel wool.

Then finish off by giving it another coating of alcohol and brush it vigorously with your brush.

The alcohol sort of melts the surface of the clay. With the buffing and the brushing... it smoothes out the surface. The isopropyl is a bit mild though and can only take care of small blemishes without a lot of work. For more aggressive smoothing you can use a few other things. Isopropyl Myristate, acetone, methylated spirits, and a few others all work well for deeper smoothing. Some of those others will break down the clay compound, making it unusable after. Do some research. You can find out a lot. is a good place to start.

Step 6: Notes and Tips.

Adding details:

The lumpy keloid texture was created by scrapping a spare lump of clay with a rake, taking the shavings and pressing them as random lumps onto the surface and then smoothing out the edges.

The skin pores are made with a tool that is two small spike side by side. I make rapid taps at various depths and random locations.

The veins were made by taking small pieces of clay and rolling them into very fine "threads", then pressing them onto the surface in a random pattern. Again smoothing it down a bit.

If you need to really soften you clay fast, use your heat gun. This is also good for melting it to a really liquid form and pouring in a mould to duplicate shapes.

If you make a section too soft, take your can of compressed air, turn it upside down and blast the clay. This makes the "air" come out as a supercooled liquid. This can firm up your clay. Be careful with this technique though. It does come out really cold and you can get serious "frost burns. Also a lot of those brands pt nasty chemicals in their product. So chose carefully. You can also pop you sculpt in the freezer for a couple of minutes.

Her you can see the type of scraper I like to use, as well as the tool I used to create the "pores", and finally my favourite sculpting tool. I use this one for about 70% of everything I do.

Step 7: This Is It... This Is What I Have.

So this is the final... so fare. I'm calling this done.

I do plan on putting this on the back desk for a month or two and then revisit it. When I come back and look at it with fresh eyes again, I may decide to rework it before I cast... but at this time it's done.

I hope you enjoyed this and got something worthwhile from it.

Thank you,

Sculpting Challenge

Participated in the
Sculpting Challenge